Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Picnic on the Hill


"Xani finds out she gets to go to a picnic and goes totally insane"

by Xani

On Thursday nights in the summer, The American Visionary Arts Museum hosts Flicks on the Hill, where they show a movie on a big screen on the side of the building, located next to historic Federal Hill. People show up to watch with blankets, chairs, maybe a bottle of wine, and, of course, snacks. Last Thursday, after getting home from Bucks County, I decided to join EP and some other friends on the Hill to watch the classic film E.T. The Extraterrestrial. I still had a couple hours before the movie started at 9, so I thought I would "throw together" a few things to snack on while we watched. Or that's how it started, anyway. But then, something took hold of me, and I couldn't help myself. I went into full-blown cooking mode! I was just too excited at the idea of a nighttime picnic in the park. How awesome! Isn't this why I live in the city in the first place, to do cool stuff like this?! Not to mention the weather was perfect - after a few days of terrible humidity the storms had rolled through the day before and we were left with a dry, comfortable evening (for a change).

I started scouring my kitchen for ingredients, then running back to the laptop to google recipe ideas. Eventually I figured out I had everything I needed to make:

Um, yeah. What is wrong with me?? I went pretty overboard I guess. But it was fun, and I was excited about how creative I got with the few (still good) ingredients in my fridge.

The salad was pretty simple, just chop up the veggies (and feta) and mix with the rinsed chickpeas, add a little cumin and red pepper flakes along with the lemon, garlic and olive oil, and its pretty much done. I went a step further and decided to toast up some whole wheat pita broken into pieces, kind of like a fatoush salad, to give it some crunch. This turned out to be a REALLY good, refreshing summer salad. And yet another variation on chickpea salad which we all know I love.

The crostini started as a simple idea-- I had some fresh basil that was about to go bad, and some fresh mozzarella. But I didn't have a lot, and there were potentially going to be six people eating the food; GOD FORBID I not bring enough food, that would against the BCD creed of "Always cook enough food to feed an army." So, I had to figure out some more crostini toppings, obviously. I ended up sauteing up some chopped mushrooms in butter, garlic, parsley and a little onion, because I thought the mushroom saute would go well with the mozzarella as well as some fresh goat cheese I also had. And so, after toasting up some sliced french bread, voila-- mix 'n' match crostini.

This was shaping up into quite a meal. And really, what is a meal without dessert (well, and wine - I brought that too), especially a summer meal, eaten outdoors? The natural choice was ice cream, but I thought it would melt, even if I kept it in the little cooler I was planning on bringing. But while I was staring into the freezer, thinking about what I could bring instead of ice cream, I saw a package of frozen raspberries. Then, in the fridge I found some part-skim ricotta (cheese is obviously a theme in this meal!). I decided to macerate the berries in a little triple sec-- I hated to use frozen berries when now is the time to get great fresh ones, but they were all I had. And honestly, with a little booze and a sprinkle of sugar and lemon zest, they were very good! To the ricotta I added a spoonful of sour cream (to thin it out a bit and give it some tang), some vanilla and another sprinkle of sugar.

With all the food packed in their little individual tupperware containers (plus plates, cups, napkins, forks, spoons, knives, wine opener, bug spray, etc, etc- packing for a picnic is complicated!) it was time to head over to the movie. We met up with EP's friends Laurie and Paul, who had saved us great seats on the hill. The movie started and soon we were joined by my friends Greg and Jes. We poured the wine and broke out the food, and it was great! I was really happy with the way the dishes came out, and everyone seemed to enjoy the "snacks." (Bonus: ALL the food got eaten! Again we confirm the theory of always bringing too much!) I especially like the dessert, which I totally made up the recipe for; it tasted sort of like a deconstructed raspberry cheesecake. But not as good. Nothing is as good as real cheesecake. But still good.

I didn't take many pictures at the movie because I didn't want to disturb the other audience members with the flash, and it was too dark not to use it. Here are the few I did snap:

All packed up

I packed the pita chips separately and added them just before we ate

All the fixin's

Blurry pic of AVAM with cranes in the background

Good food, good friends, and a good movie (although I didn't remember E.T. having quite so many plot holes)-- it was a fun night and I hope to do it again sometime soon! If you live in Baltimore or nearby I highly recommend you make your own totally over-the-top picnic one Thursday night this summer. Maybe I will see you there!



  1. Yum. What a wonderful way to spend a summer evening. I must point out that even though you felt you went overboard- you didn't actually do much "cooking" (well cooking using heat) So really it was just like tossing a few things together. I hope that's how you described it when you whipped it out at the movie.
    Xan: "Oh, here's a few things I just whipped together"
    Friends: ...(mouths drop open)

  2. Haha Stef, that's exactly how it happened!!

  3. see, this is why I read your blog. Satisfies my own cravings to cook without having to do any work persé

  4. I like the artfully placed bottle of dom perignon in the background. Now *that's* a a picnic...


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